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In Vision: The Internet As a Resource for Visually Impaired People

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Ann Chapman on the Internet as a resource for visually impaired people: a survey of accessible sites, resources, current research and software.

Introduction

Until recently, visually impaired people (VIP) were poorly served by the library and information provision that is routinely available to sighted people. They have relied to a great extent on specialist voluntary organisations transcribing a limited range of materials into accessible formats. This situation is changing with advances in technology and recent initiatives on social inclusion. Increasingly visually impaired people will be able to locate and use information independently, as sighted people already do. The Internet allows visually impaired people to access the same resources as sighted people, using access technology, although features such as graphics can prove a problem. Library OPACs allow users to locate resources in suitable accessible formats. New formats are extending the traditional range of tactile, audio cassette and large print into CD-Rom and etexts. These technical advances are supported by a range of initiatives co-ordinated by the Library and Information Commission and Share the Vision. This programme covers a national inter lending system, the development of a national database of resources in accessible formats, extending access to library ICT, extending the range of titles transcribed into accessible formats and a best practice manual for libraries.

Accessible Web Sites

The development of the Internet and web-sites has produced a valuable new resource for people with visual impairment that they can access independently. Access is facilitated by access or assistive technology, which ranges from screen magnification, through customisation of screen display by alteration of font size and background/text colours, and screen reader software combined with speech synthesiser output, to temporary braille display or permanent braille output. In the early days, web pages were simple in design because of the limits of the available technology, and were suited to access technology. Many new features are now possible in web page design - e.g. banners, graphics, patterned backgrounds - but these can end up limiting access again for visually impaired people. Ensuring accessibility need not mean avoiding such features but should include relevant solutions: e.g. if you use graphics ensure that there is an attached text description. The following sites provide standards and guidance.

As part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) <http://www/w3/org/WAI> works to ensure that web technologies support accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines <http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/> were issued in May 1999 and explain how to make web content accessible. While the primary goal is to promote accessibility to people with disabilities, following the guidelines will also make web content more available to all users. Instead of discouraging the use of images, videos, etc., they explain how to make multimedia content more accessible. Have a look also at Paul Booth's article on the guidelines in Ariadne issue 21. <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/disinhe/> and an article by Helen Brazier and Simon Jennings on accessible web design in Library Technology <http://www.sbu.ac.uk/litc/lt/1999/news1330.html> [1]

The IBM web site has a section on Special Needs Systems (SNS) <http://www.austin.ibm.com/sns/> and these pages also contain guidelines on accessibility. The SNS pages cover software, the web, Java, Lotus Notes and hardware, and each section has an accessibility checklist. The pages also have information on some special needs products.

In addition to the guidelines, tools are being developed to audit the accessibility of a site. Bobby is a web-based tool that analyses web pages for their accessibility. It was developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and is offered as a free service. A visit to the Bobby site <http://www.cast.org/bobby/> allows you submit the URL of a web page and receive a report indicating any problems. Sites receiving a Bobby Approved rating can display a Bobby Approved icon.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is another source of information on web-site design <http://www.rnib.org.uk/access/> and <http://www.rnib.org.uk/digital/>. In collaboration with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), the RNIB have a video 'Websites that Work' (for further details on both the course and the video contact Julie Howell at jhowell@rnib.org.u k). RNIB also offer to audit your web-site, advise you of problems and solutions.

Web pages that divide text into columns may cause problems for screen readers, resulting in garbled text. The BBC Education Text to Speech Internet Enhancer (Betsie) is a filter program, using a simple PERL script, developed and used by the BBC to create an automatic text-only version of its website. Instead of telling your browser to get a web page directly, you tell it to ask Betsie for the page. Betsie finds the page, then removes images and unnecessary formatting and sends you the text content at the top and the links on the navigation bar at the bottom. As well as five BBC Betsie -enhanced sites, the Betsie home page <http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/betsie> provides links to a number of other sites which now have Betsie-enhanced access including Cyber Kitchen, Manchester Metropolitan University, Suffolk County Council, Portuguese Newspapers and the Department of Trade and Industry.

So what does a well designed accessible site look like? One thing they don't need to do is look identical or unprofessional. Have a look round at some sites. The National Library for the Blind (NLB) web-site <http://www.nlbuk.org/> is an example of a site that has been designed for people who use speech synthesis software, screen magnification and soft Braille displays. As part of the site it includes a page detailing guidelines for accessible pages <http://www.nlbuk.org/access/nlbguidelines.html>. In 1999 NLB was one of three winners (from 1,400 entrants) in the Ericsson Internet Community Award for the innovative use of new technology by not-for-profit organisations around the world. The award will support further development of NLB web site.

For other examples of good design, the RNIB web site <http://www.rnib.org.uk/access/> offers a page of links to accessible web-sites such as the Inland Revenue, BBC Online, Community Justice National Training Organization and Hampshire County Council.

Resources on the Internet

In the past visually impaired people have had to rely on tactile or audio or enlarged print transcripts of information originally produced in standard print. A very limited range of materials is available in this way and finding specific information still often means finding it in standard print and then arranging to have it transcribed. The Internet provides an information resource that visually impaired people can access independently. While they may be interested in any site that a sighted person would use, there are three areas that contain particularly relevant resources.

Resources on VIP issues

People with visual impairment, their families and those who support them may wish to locate information and contacts about specific conditions, about support groups and networks, and about services that are available to them. The following sites provide a starting point.

The RNIB web site has a number of relevant pages. Understanding Your Eye Condition <http://www.rnib.org.uk/infor/eyeimpoi/> takes you to pages on specific eye conditions. Living with Sight Loss <http://www.rnib.org.uk/sightlos/> is an introduction into services, publications and products for those with visual impairment and details of how to register as blind or partially sighted. Agencies for Blind and Partially Sighted People <http://www.rnib.org.uk/Agencies/Agencies.htm> links to a database of organisations of and for blind and partially sighted people world-wide. Searches can be made on the full database or on UK agencies only.

Community Care Network (CCN) is one of three subject groups in the Library Association Health Libraries Group. It aims to bring together all those providing information and library services to people with disabilities, those who are housebound or in residential care, carers and people in hospital. Contact details can be found on the homepage. <http://www.la-hq.org.uk/directory/about/>

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) includes a Section for Libraries for the Blind. This section focuses on library services for the blind and other print handicapped readers. The section home page <http://www.ifla.org/VII/s31/> contains contact details and links to its twice yearly newsletter in electronic form.

The V.I. Guide <http://www.viguide.com/> is a site developed and maintained by the parent of a visually impaired child. It is a guide to Internet resources about visual impairments, for parents and teachers. As the family lives in the United States there is a US bias to some of the resources. This also provides a link to the Blind Ring, which is designed to join together home pages and web-sites that are either run by visually impaired individuals or are for visually impaired people.

Another US site shows how the state of Ohio supports young people with visual impairment. ORCLISH <http://schoolimprovement.ode.ohio.gov/orclish/> is the website of the Ohio Department of Education project serving the parents and teachers of students with low incidence and severe disability in the state of Ohio, USA. The site contains sections on assistive technology, disability related resources and visual impairment resources.

The Macula Lutea site <http://home.swipnet.se/macula-lutea/> is an information resource on vision and vision impairment. It contains a Calendar which lists conferences worldwide in a wide range of visual impairment related fields - the listing currently includes entries for medical, rehabilitation, accessible format producers, and teaching conferences. There is a large section of links to other sites (listing 994 links in April 2000), again relating to the whole range of visual impairment related fields. The links can be viewed either by site name alphabetical listing or by country and there is a separate listing of new links added in the last 3 months. Each entry contains brief details about the site.

Going further afield, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped <http://www.savh.org.sg/> web site includes pages of links to Organisations of and for the Blind, related home pages, and speech friendly search engines; it is also a Blind Ring member.

Libraries and Library Catalogues

Did you know that only a small proportion of standard print titles (between three and five per cent of the hundred thousand new British titles published each year) are transcribed into an accessible format? And did you know that there are more than 230 organisations producing and supplying accessible format materials in the UK? Put these two facts together and you can why users of these materials (or library and information staff on their behalf) might spend a great deal of time establishing whether a version they can access is available somewhere. It is important to know who holds collections of these materials and which formats they hold. It is equally important to know what titles are in each collection. Catalogues for a few of these collections are now available over the Internet and can be consulted at a distance. Borrowing from these collections is subject to the policies of the holding institutions and inter-library lending arrangements.

With so many organisations supplying accessible formats in the UK, there is a need for a union catalogue of these materials. At present the National Union Catalogue of Alternative Formats (NUCAF) has this role but it is not comprehensive in coverage, nor is it is not accessible on the Internet. Currently it is not directly accessible outside the RNIB where it is maintained, although it has recently been loaded on the Unity and V3.Online inter-lending databases, and will therefore be available to interlending department staff. This situation is set to change.

A recent review [2] <http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/lic/sharethevision/> made a recommendation (accepted by the Library and Information Commission and Share the Vision) that a new web-based database should replace this. The new database, to be known as Reveal, is in the early stages of development at present.

The National Library for the Blind (NLB) is the largest lending library for people who read by touch. The majority of its collection is in Braille and Moon, including braille music scores. It also has a collection of several hundred large print titles. The library catalogue can be downloaded from the web-site <http://www.nlbuk.org/> as a set of ASCII files and should be available this year as a web OPAC. Visitors to the site can also try out the Fiction Café, an initiative for young readers where they can browse before choosing a title, and then request the item online.

The RNIB web site has a page on library and information services for people with impaired vision <http://www.rnib.org.uk/wesupply/fctsheet/>. This includes a select list of organisations or agencies which provide library and information services on a national or international basis. For each listed organisation, there are contact details and a brief description of its collection and services.

A number of web-based catalogues are already in existence overseas, and the RNIB and the NLB have some borrowing arrangements in place. The NLB have partnership agreements with the Canadian Institute for the Blind, Library of Congress Braille Music, and other international libraries, and the RNIB are the Library of Congress agents in the UK.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind maintains a range of services including a library <http://www.cnib.ca/library/> of over 45,000 titles in braille, audio, electronic text and descriptive video. The catalogue <http://www.cnib.ca/library/visunet> is available online.

The National Library Service for Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the United States is maintained by the Library of Congress. The Union Catalogue (BPHP) and the file of In-Process Publications (BPHI - equivalent to cataloguing in publication) can both be searched via the web site. <http://lcweb.loc/gov/nls/> The Union Catalogue is bannered as the NLS catalogue but also includes details of the holdings of the RNIB and the accessible format collections of Ireland, Canada and New Zealand and now has bibliographic records for more than 340,000 items. The RNIB file includes braille books, music scores, and two and four track audio cassette tapes but does not include the six track Talking Books for technical and copyright reasons.

The American Printing House for the Blind hosts the Louis Database of accessible materials for people who are blind or visually impaired. This contains more than 145,000 titles in braille, large print, audio and electronic files from over 200 agencies in the US. To get to the database click on the Louis icon below the Search Our Site heading near the bottom of the home page. <http://www.aph.org/>

And in Europe, Talboks-och Punktskriftbiblioteket is the library for audio books (Talboks) and tactile media (Punktskrift) in Sweden. The web-site <http://www.tpd.se/> has a number of sections, with Handikat being the catalogue itself. Easy to move round the site even if you don't read Swedish.

The International Directory of Libraries for the Blind (4ed.) is available in electronic form as a searchable database <http://dserver.dinf.ne.jp:591/>. It lists libraries for visually impaired people world-wide, giving contact details, and information about holdings in various formats, acquisitions rates and loan policies.

Electronic Texts

Electronic texts (sometimes referred to as etexts) provide a new form of access for visually impaired people. These texts can be downloaded as a file onto a PC, enabling the user to choose their preferred method of access technology - screen magnification, speech synthesis or temporary Braille display - for output. At present there are few sites offering such texts; while it is likely that the future will see more of these sites, it is difficult to predict the rate of expansion. A specific problem for such sites relates to copyright law, since material that has already been published and is still within copyright can only be made available subject to gaining the relevant copyright permissions.

Online Originals <http://www.onlineoriginals.com> is a publishing company that operates solely through the Internet. It publishes book length works that have not been previously published in either printed or digital form. Works include both fiction and non-fiction, with a focus on new, unusual, multi-disciplinary and innovative writing. At present most of the texts are in English, with a few in French. Each month, a specific title is available free, other titles cost around £4. There is a special arrangement with the NLB, whereby selected titles that have been formatted for speech synthesis and refreshable Braille are available free via the NLB web-site

Project Gutenberg <http://promo.net/pg/> is an archive of free electronic texts of works in the public domain. From the beginning the intention has always been to make the texts available in the simplest, easiest to use forms; thus 'plain vanilla ASCII' is used on the basis that 99% of the hardware and software that people are likely to use can read and search these files. Likewise, the texts are selected on the basis that they are likely to be of interest to 99% of the general population. The archive covers three areas: light literature (e.g. Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aesop's Fables), heavy literature (e.g the Bible, Shakespeare, Zola, Spinoza) and reference (e.g Roget's Thesuarus).

The above two sites cover only monograph material. For newspapers and magazines, the Talking Newspaper Association of the UK (TNAUK) links around 530 Talking Newspapers in the UK. Through TNAUK, over 50 newspapers and magazines are available as electronic texts; they are distributed on IBM compatible computer disks, by email or retrieved from a bulletin board service. More details can be found in an article on TNAUK featured in Ariadne issue 10 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue10/tnauk/>

The Ezio Galiano Foundation is an Italian web-site <http://www.galiano.it/> with both Italian and English pages. The site provides free access to around 2,500 literary works in Italian (ranging from classics to leisure fiction) and to a selection of Italian daily newspapers and popular magazines.

New initiatives are extending the options for visually impaired people. The NLB now offers NLB members free access to an online reference resource, KnowUK, via the NLB web site. KnowUK <http://www.knowuk.co.uk/>, published by Chadwyck-Healey, is a collection of over 65 of the most heavily used reference sources in British Libraries (e.g. the Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Hansard, Who's Who, and the Municipal Yearbook) through a single interface. Resources cover a wide range of subjects, including biography, community information, education, government, health, law, religion, and KnowUK also contains information on national events, travel and leisure.

Research and Projects

In the past few years a number of research projects have been carried out both in the UK and overseas. Some projects focus on developing technology, some on the provision of new equipment and services, and others on integration with existing provision for sighted people.

A two-year European Union project, Testing Electronic Systems using Telematics for Library Access for the Blind (TESTLAB) combined a number of nationally based projects and was completed at the end of September 1998. In Ireland, libraries installed workstations providing a selection of access methods and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland created a new accessible catalogue of their holdings. The UK project enabled NUCAF to be integrated into the Unity regional inter-lending catalogue and carried out a pilot project for inter-lending accessible format materials. In Italy participant libraries put in additional workstations but the major focus was on social aspects and mobility issues. In Austria academic libraries installed workstations and created a network of libraries, developed catalogue access systems and linked these to information from other German speaking parts of Europe and the project influenced decisions on changes to national cataloguing. In Greece, the project reviewed provision of services in areas where currently nothing exists. The Dutch libraries coordinated the project and developed the interfaces. TESTLAB2 is a continuation of the project and involves the European Union and East European countries. Information about TESTLAB and reports on the individual projects can be found on project web-site <http://www.svb.nl/project/testlab/>.

In 1988, the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille (TPB) recognised that the current technology for audio books was inadequate for the advanced audio book reader. In 1991, TPB was awarded a government grant to develop a new technique that could: (a) store more than 20 hours of continuous speech on a single CD-Rom disc and (b) give the reader random access to the audio book from the table of contents. TPB commissioned Labyrinten Data AB to develop software based on the Digital Audio-based Information System (DAISY) concept of phase based storage. Additional requirements of the system were that it should be able to:

* skim the text, phrase by phrase or section by section, where section is a collection of phrases

* search for different parts of the text based table of contents

* search for specific pages in the talking book

* place and search for bookmarks in the book

* and in a future version, make underlining and notes in the audio book.

The first prototype was demonstrated in 1994 and gained international attention, as around the world there was a growing interest in a new common format for all audio books. In 1996 the DAISY Consortium <http://www.daisy.org/> was formed as an international organisation, with RNIB one of the founder members. The objective of the DAISY Consortium is to establish an international standard for the production, exchange and use of the next generation of audio books. The development of the format is carried out by the DAISY Foundation (based in Amsterdam). In 1997 it was decided to change the file format to the de facto industry standard and so compatible with the HTML format. For more details see the IFLA Section for Libraries for the Blind Newsletter Fall 1996.

<http://www.ifla.org/VII/s31/nws1/fall96.htm>

The Resources for Visually Impaired Users of the Electronic Library (REVIEL) project at the Centre for Research in Library and Management (CERLIM) took place over two years. Investigations of current services and the potential of technology were carried out, establishing that there were small pockets of excellence but large areas where the issues were unknown. The report [3] reviews its findings and presents the case for a National Accessible Library Service (NALS), the elements of the accessible library of the future, together with implementation issues and suggestions for further research and development.

In 1999, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport allocated £200,000 to be administered by the Library and Information Commission (LIC) to improve access to library and information services to visually impaired people. The LIC worked in partnership with Share the Vision (STV) to identify the key elements and draw up a programme of work <http://www.lic.gov.uk/research/visualaccess> for 1999-2000, consisting of a number of projects. These projects were based on the following areas:

  • Developing and maintaining a union catalogue of accessible format materials (Reveal)
  • Developing a national interlending system for accessible format materials
  • Extending access to IT in libraries
  • Extending the range of titles transcribed into accessible formats
  • Initiating a range of best practice and best value initiatives including a Best Practice manual.

On the first of February 1999, the Music Information Assisted Computer Library Exchange (MIRACLE) project <http://www.svb.nl/project/MIRACLE/> was launched under the European Commission's Telematics Applications Programme (Libraries Division). Co-ordinated by the SVB in Amsterdam this two-year project aims to create a central catalogue and database of music scores in accessible formats. The project is based on the co-operation of four major libraries, SVB, RNIB, ONCE and SBS (Switzerland), which have worked together for five years to create the standards for the central catalogue. The project consortium consists of these four libraries plus the Danish Library for the Blind and the Stamperia Braille of Florence, Italy. The system, developed by Shylock Progetti of Venice, will be based on the library access program developed in the CANTATE project. Project management will be supplied by the FORCE Foundation in the Netherlands.

Because music in accessible formats is so expensive to produce it makes sense for libraries around the world to share their resources, thereby avoiding duplication of effort. MIRACLE is not only an international catalogue of music; it will also deliver the digital files of the pieces. These will be primarily braille but it is hoped to include spoken word music and large letter music. The whole system will be available via the Internet. Where libraries are required to sell music files, the system will track and permit secure electronic payment and manage the redistribution of costs. Although it is possible to make the system open to individuals, the primary participants will be special libraries for the blind and other braille production units.

There will be differences in the music layout produced in different countries. MIRACLE is not setting out to automate conversion from one layout to another but it will be investigating the acceptability of these different files to the users. MIRACLE expects to open the system to as many libraries as wish to take part during the two years of the project. The system must be ready for trials and evaluation in February / March 2000. See the report in the IFLA Section for Libraries for the Blind Newsletter for Spring 1999. [4]

NLB has applied to the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) for a grant to fund a project with the working title of Visugate. There will be notification in June 2000 as to whether the project has passed round on of the NOF selection process, with a final decision in Spring 2001. The Visugate project aims to create a freely available, comprehensive, searchable Internet resource containing information on all aspects of visual impairment. It would digitise information not available on the Internet at present and create an online visual impairment information portal to link to the existing high quality Internet resources in addition to the newly digitised material. The NLB would work with a number of organisations in the visual impairment field. No web page is yet available on the project but for more information contact the Visugate project manager Joanna Widdows at joanna.widdows@nlbuk.org.

Software and Equipment

Software and equipment designed for use by people with visual impairments is known as assistive or access technology. For example, keyboards can have embossed braille characters or large print letters on the keys. Speech synthesis or screen reader packages (e.g. Hal, Window Eyes, Jaws, Webspeak) convert print to audio. To provide enlarged print, screen magnification packages (e.g. Lunar, Aladdin), portable plug-in screen magnifiers (e.g. Eezee reader/writers), optical character recognition (OCR) scanners (as in the Cicero package) and closed circuit tv can be used. Text can be converted to braille as either temporary display or refreshable braille, and as hard copy braille output (e.g. Kurzweil readers). An increasing range of such software and equipment is available, so where do you go to find out what what's available, how it performs and what might be the best options for your organisation?

A recent initiative is the new National Internet Accessibility Database (NIAD) being set up by the Assistive Technology Centre at Sussex University and described in Ariadne 22 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue22/disinhe/>. This will be a continually updated web based resource on products and performance, with a specific focus on the higher and further education sectors.

Some products are listed on the NLB site; while not endorsing any specific products, there is a page on suppliers of access technology <http://www.nlbuk.org/access> with links to their web sites. If you'd like to try out the Internet using access technology, the NLB site also has a page of places where you can do this. The page <http://www.nlbuk.org/access> details the location (a number of RNIB Cybercafes and some public libraries), the equipment available and contact details. The RNIB web site also has a page of links <http://www.rnib.org.uk/wedo/services/edtu/inf-ser.htm#links> to access technology manufacturers. The links identify the manufacturers and list their products.

TNAUK is also working to extend access to computer resources to visually impaired people who may not otherwise have this opportunity. Under a recently funded lottery grant, it has just begun a three year programme to provide computer resources at forty-five of its local Talking Newspaper groups. Around twelve centres around the country will be equipped in the first year, with the first installation in Maidstone, Kent in April 2000 and the second in the Isle of Wight in May. The funding will provide computer equipment, onsite training for staff and volunteer assistants, support manuals and documentation and telephone support from TNAUK. The TNAUK site <http://www.tnauk.org.uk> features this project in its news section and further details can be requested from info@tnauk.org.uk.

The software and equipment are not only for institutions or workplaces; they also enable visually impaired people to access the Internet at home. The RNIB web site section on The Internet and How to Access It <http://www.rnib.org.uk/access/> is a basic guide to the Internet for non-users. As well as explaining the various terms, and identifying where problems can occur for people with visual impairment and how access technology can help, the guide includes some useful addresses and a list of the major Internet Service Providers.

The NLB web site <http://www.nlbuk.org/access/> includes a page that looks at the adjustments possible with the browsers Internet Explorer and Netscape that would assist users with visual impairment. Then there is Emacspeak <http://cs.cornell.edu/home/raman/emacspeak>, a speech interface that can be combined with the Linux operating system allowing visually impaired users to interact independently with the computer. Both Emacspeak and Linux are available free on the Internet. The Blinux site <http://www.hzo.cubenet.de/blinux/> is designed as a meeting point for people interested in support for visually impaired users of Linux. The site includes the Blinux Archive, a repository that offers all related software and the Blinux Distribution, an easy to install Linux distribution. If you're keen to find out more in this area, WebABLE <http://www.webable.com/> is a web site for disability-related Internet resources that lists many resources on accessibility.

One offer that has been announced [5] is the joint venture between Demon Internet and the Apart Consultancy, which was founded to advise companies on exploiting the abilities of visually impaired people and retaining employees who have lost their sight. Apart has designed a package - the Brunel Freedom system - which provides a computer, scanner, modem and KA9Q along with the Webspeak package. This is linked to free sign-up with Demon Internet.

SpeecHTML is a new service developed by the UK based company Vocalis, reported in the NLB Research Bulletin in March 2000. [6] This service allows anyone who can't use, or hasn't got a PC to access Web pages using an ordinary telephone and spoken commands. SpeecHTML <http://www.speechtml.com/> is based on two core technologies - Advanced Speech Recognition (ASR) and Text to Speech (TTS) - and the system reads standard hyper text mark-up language (HTML). Web site owners can provide SpeecHTML as an add-on facility, and implement it using templates or 'Wizards'. Once implemented, the site can offer a telephone number using their web pages as a source. Users then call up the telephone number associated with the site and the textual parts of the site are read back to them. By speaking the menu item required into the telephone handset they can navigate their way to the information required. The service has been well received by users in a pilot trial.

And Finally...

The Internet does provide a substantial resource for those with visual impairment. If you are in charge of a web site, or web pages, why not take a look at them with the accessibility guidelines in mind. Perhaps only small changes are required to make them fully accessible. If you offer a service to visually impaired people, check out some of the sites you haven't come across before and perhaps put together some bookmarks so you can refer others to these sites. Find out whether any of the new initiatives are operating in your area; your users may be able to use them.

It may also be useful to look at the special issues on IT and disability produced by Vine issue 106 <http://litc.sbu.ac.uk/publications/vine/106/> [7] and Library Technology for February 1999 <http://www.sbu.ac.uk/litc/lt/feb99cover.html> [8]. Share the Vision News also carried a special supplement on accessible technology in 1999 [9]. As part of the DCMS funded programme to improve library services to the visually impaired, copies of Share the Vision News issues for 1999 have been sent free of charge to libraries in the UK.

References

[1] Brazier, Helen and Jennings, Simon
'Accessible web design' Library Technology February 1999
[2] Chapman, Ann. Project One, Part A.: The Future role of NUCAF and a technical specification of the metadata requirements.
Bath: UKOLN, 1999.
 
Report to the Library and Information Commission and Share the Vision Project One Steering Committee
[3] Brophy, Peter and Craven, Jenny. The Integrated Accessible Library: a model of service development for the 21st century.
Manchester: CERLIM, 1999 ISBN: 0953534316
British Library Research and Innovation Report no.168
[4] The Miracle project. IFLA Newsletter Spring 1999: <http://www.ifla.org/VII/s31/nws1/spring99.htm>
[5] Demon Dispatches Winter 1997/98 pp72-74
[6] NLB Research Bulletin No. 2, March 2000 pp27-28
[7] Vine Special issue 106, 1997
[8] Library technology Special issue February 1999
[9] Jennings, Simon, et al. Accessible Technology: a practical guide.
Share the Vision News issue 31 (Special supplement), Winter 1999, pp39-50
 

Ariadne has featured articles on disability and accessibility topics in a number of previous issues.

Issue 7 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue7/web-access/>
Issue 8 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue8/disabilities/>
Issue 8 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue8/web-access/>
Issue 9 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue9/web-access/>
Issue 10 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue10/tnauk/>
Issue 14 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue14/older-people/>
Issue 19 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue19/disinhe/>
Issue 20 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue20/disinhe/>
Issue 21 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/disinhe/>
Issue 22 <http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue22/disinhe/>

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Helen Brazier (National Library for the Blind), Simon Jennings (Resource Discovery Network Centre), David Owen (Share the Vision), and David Taylor (Royal National Institute for the Blind) for comments on the draft of this paper and suggesting some additional sites.

Author Details

  Ann Chapman
Research Officer
UKOLN
University of Bath

Email: ann.chapman@ukoln.ac.uk
Web site: www.ukoln.ac.uk

 

Date published: 
23 June 2000

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.

How to cite this article

Ann Chapman. "In Vision: The Internet As a Resource for Visually Impaired People". June 2000, Ariadne Issue 24 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue24/in-vision/


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